How to define your target market – motivation vs. demographics

I recently worked with a client named Jane who is a healer of sorts. When we sat down to analyze her target market, she was mystified. “I don’t know” she said. “I work with both men and women, their age and income is varied and they are of all sorts of different professions – this is why I can’t figure it out.”

As with many entrepreneurs, Jane was focusing on the demographic profiles of her clients which were at best, varied. We looked instead at the motivation of her clients – that is to say, “why the heck do these people come to you in the first place?”

At this point, we discovered that Jane’s clients were very spiritual. They generally had an emotional block and tried various traditional ways to heal, perhaps by visiting a traditional doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc. Bingo!

Motivation defined Jane’s target market. Once Jane began promoting her services to chiropractors & massage therapists, who had a number of well-motivated clients searching for someone like Jane, her phone began to ring.

Big companies are also looking at motivation as a way to segment a target market. One that is rapidly emerging is that of the “Alpha Moms” a group of socially-savvy, hip and type-A mothers.

A recent article in USA Today touts the equity of this target market in companies such as Nintendo, Proctor & Gamble, and GM. More and more it’s the social characteristics and motivation that defines a target market, not the specific demographics.

Start focusing on the needs and motivations of your target market instead of the age & income – chances are, you’ll be rewarded.


Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit

10 thoughts on “How to define your target market – motivation vs. demographics

  1. Great insight!

    When I stumpled on this article, I was searching for advice on how to define markets. All I found was that demographics thingy again and again and again. And it’s old news. And never helped me anyway. I knew there was a better way. Somewhere…

    Guess I found it!

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  4. Thanks Andrea, this article was really helpful – thinking about a customers motivation and their experiences, not just their demographic.

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  7. I am researching for a school project on target marketing and need some real life examples of target marketing that worked, and of companies who failed to do the correct marketing, or added products which didn’t fit their target, and so failed. Any suggestions?
    Thank you for your help!

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  9. Love this approach to finding your target market. We really need to change the way with think in terms of how to write business plans. The standard thought processes and examples don’t cut it anymore. Social media, user motivations and world views factor in heavily when writing a good business plan now.

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